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Dominicans' boat sinks; 57 feared dead

Fifty-seven people are presumed dead in the sinking of a sailboat carrying Dominicans who were trying to reach Puerto Rico, authorities said Saturday.

The boat, with 60 people aboard, went down early Thursday morning after striking a coral reef off the southern end of Ile-a-Vache, a small Haitian island about 90 miles southwest of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Fifteen bodies were recovered after they washed ashore, but 42 others on board were thought to have drowned, authorities said.

Of the three Dominicans who survived the shipwreck, one died Friday night, according to hospital authorities in Les Cayes, a south coast town near where the survivors came ashore. Another was in critical condition, suffering from exposure and dehydration.

The third, 19-year-old Carlos Pineles, was in good condition. Pineles said his fiance had died in the shipwreck.

Private sailboats had searched for other survivors, but none were found.

The Dominicans apparently were hoping to enter Puerto Rico illegally, health authorities said. But they went off course and were apparently adrift in the Caribbean for 24 days before Thursday's accident, said Dr. Witner Pierre, a regional health ministry official.

Thousands of Dominicans undertake the dangerous sea passage to Puerto Rico every year, hoping to improve their lives on the comparatively wealthy U.S. island.

Authorities did not know exactly where in the Dominican Republic the boat left from, or the hometowns and identities of the victims.